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ACC Butterfingers

When teams can't seem to hang on to the ball

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Duke
Feb 10, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Javin DeLaurier (12) reacts during the second half against the Florida State Seminoles at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 70-65.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

When Duke committed 21 turnovers earlier this week in a scrappy home victory over Florida State, it seemed to produce an unusually large cascade of ballhandling miscues.

Well, it did and it didn’t.

Particularly in the opening half, with the Blue Devils shaking off the effects of their double last-gasp overtime win at Chapel Hill, the visitors forced 11 turnovers.

Clearly Duke lacked its customary mental acuity, the oncourt presence of mind to protect the ball on dribbles and to make crisp, low-risk passes and drives. The Devils still attacked aggressively, reflective of the best scoring offense in the ACC, but didn’t always bring the ball with them.

What’s more, FSU appeared to have watched tape of Louisville’s Jan. 18 triumph at Cameron as well. Trailing 11-2 in the first five minutes, Leonard Hamilton’s club emerged from a timeout and started playing more physical defense. Quick hands poked balls loose and comparably quick feet clogged the way as dribblers sputtered in the lane.

Duke evinced better control in the second half.

Leading the way was tough playmaker Tre Jones, who not only tied for a team-best 13 points but contributed six assists. However he also paced the Devils with five turnovers, tied for his third-highest total all year.

Jones stands third in the ACC in ratio of assists to turnovers (and seventh in minutes per game). The sophomore’s best production was 12 assists in an overtime contest against Stephen A. Austin. But that same night he set a personal mark with eight turnovers as Duke had a season-worst 22, and we know how that game turned out.

So far in 2019-20, 15 ACC teams committed at least 20 turnovers in a game. Only Duke, Georgia Tech and Pitt had 21 or more at least twice.

BC had 27 turnovers in its second outing of the season, a win at South Florida, and hasn’t suffered more than 19 since (in a loss at Duke).

Nine of 15 occasions on which teams yielded 20 or more turnovers resulted in defeats (60 percent). Duke is the sole ACC squad that won two games despite 21 or more ballhandling errors in each.

Most Turnovers by ACC Teams in 2020 Game
Through 2/12 (* Indicates Overtime Period)
No. Team Opponent Result
27 Boston College @ South Florida W, 74-60
24 Georgia Tech Ball State L, 47-65
24 Miami Florida State L, 79-83*
24 Georgia Tech Arkansas L, 61-62*
22 Clemson South Carolina L, 54-67
22 Duke Stephen A. Austin L, 83-85*
22 Georgia Tech @ Pittsburgh L, 64-73
21 Duke Georgetown W, 81-73
21 Duke Florida State W, 70-65
21 Pittsburgh Nicholls State L, 70-75
21 Pittsburgh Kansas State W, 63-57
20 Georgia Tech Boise State W, 74-60
20 Georgia Tech @ Florida State L, 58-70
20 North Carolina Alabama W, 76-67
20 Wake Forest @ Penn State L, 54-76